No new tricks at Bulldog Tavern’s debut

November 12, 2014

“Traditions have to start somewhere,” reads the slogan on the back of Bulldog Tavern’s staff t-shirts.

Every college has its iconic restaurant. For Georgetown, this has been The Tombs, where students, faculty, and administrators have gathered for over 50 years to celebrate the happy and drink away the sad. The opening of Bulldog Tavern in the Healey Family Student Center sought to change that.

As part of the university’s charge to bring students back to campus, the conveniently-located pub was meant to be the new, premiere haunt of the campus community. Unfortunately, despite a menu tailored to Georgetown students and faculty alike, generally competitive prices, and a pleasant dining atmosphere, the new restaurant and bar misses its mark.

Though the restaurant’s entrance seems haphazardly sidelined, attention to detail is evident in the pub’s interior design. Reclaimed light fixtures from Dahlgren Chapel provide gentle, dim lighting to create a relaxed environment. The physical layout of the dining floor incorporates ample seating in the form of booths, tables, and bar stools—the last two are not fixed, leaving room for potential weekend shenanigans.

This layout, however, is hindered by the massive wall of kegs that divide the restaurant, isolating a portion of the floor from the rest of the tavern. Though this design may create a rowdier bar section and a calmer restaurant section to its side, it remains to be seen whether this was a prudent choice. For now, the wall detracts from the open feel of the rest of the pub.

For those rowdy weekend nights, though, Bulldog Tavern packs a wide selection of beers, wines, and mixed drinks, including craft and local brews. The cocktail menu includes options like the Archer Martini that were clearly envisioned with students in mind. This level of foresight was also employed in the creation of the menu, which contains options like “The Hoya Burger,” to entice residents of the Hilltop to the pub.

The intersection of these meticulously planned elements should lend itself to an enjoyable dining experience. But even the best laid plans are void when executed poorly, which seems to have been the case on Bulldog Tavern’s opening weekend.

In almost all metrics to judge a dining experience, Bulldog Tavern was nothing more than average. The service was slow and disorganized, appetizers and drinks arriving well after our entrees. The dishes were missing ingredients—the “Farm Burger” did not contain any bacon as had been promised—and meat in these dishes was over cooked—a medium-rare burger was beyond well-done.

Some of the mistakes could have been easily avoided by more communication between servers, managers, and customers to ensure an efficient and enjoyable dining experience. The Tavern was cognizant, at least, of its poor service, offering us extra appetizers as an apology for the delay.

Ultimately, Bulldog Tavern bears much comparison to its bare beige walls. In its current state, despite all of the planning committees, student input, and administrative work, the pub is simply unexciting. Thankfully, the Tavern has ample time to improve and, like many restaurants, eventually develop its own individual identity to decorate its walls. Until then, The Tombs, bedecked with centuries of history, will be the only place anyone would ever consider going for 100 days straight.

Bulldog Tavern

Healey Family Student Center

Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-3 a.m.

Daniel Varghese
Daniel was an editor at the Voice from December 2013 to November 2016. He loved it. Follow him on Twitter @drvarg01 for his thoughts on Global Health and Kanye West.

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Class of 2013 Hoya

I don’t know if I quite understand. You claim that the Bulldog Tavern “misses its mark,” but say that it has a menu tailored to Georgetown students, generally competitive prices, and a pleasant dining atmosphere. What more do you want?

For a student body that cries foul when there’s no input, this entire place is a result of student engagement. For an audience of college students that is generally pretty cost-conscious, the prices are very encouraging. A pleasant dining atmosphere is somewhere you’d want to go to enjoy a meal. It seems like you’re saying it’s a solid spot, only to say it misses the mark. What gives?

I was there last Saturday and our service sucked. We waited forever and the waitress clearly didn’t know what she was doing. But, the food was awesome, the beer selection was good and we walked away full and a little drunk without breaking the bank. When you consider they just opened, I think I can excuse the crap service because you know it has nowhere to go but up. What was important was that the food was good, and it definitely was.